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This briefing paper details the introduction, implementation and development of the Sure Start policy of early intervention for pre-school children and their parents.

Launched in 1998, Sure Start was driven by local partnerships of voluntary groups, parents and local authorities in the most deprived areas. Apart from five core areas including outreach services, play and healthcare, local programmes offered services based on locally-defined needs.

This briefing sets out the development of the policy from local programmes to local authority administered children’s centres, as part of which Sure Start was changed to a universal service for all families, and the creation of a statutory basis for children’s centres in 2009.

The 2010 Coalition Government also implemented a number of changes to the Sure Start programme, including the introduction of a core purpose for children’s centres and new statutory guidance.

A number of empirical studies on the impact of Sure Start have been carried out since 2002, and details of many of these are provided, along with information on funding for and numbers of children’s centres.

As early years services are a devolved policy area, this briefing covers England only, unless otherwise stated.

Documents to download

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